DAVID MARQUES, HOST: This is Uptown Radio. I'm David Marques.
REBEKAH ROBINSON, HOST: And I’m Rebekah Robinson. As we discussed earlier in the show, many New Yorkers think the rent in the city is too high. For years, the city has been facing an affordable housing crisis. As of today, one-third of households are severely rent-burdened - meaning they spend more than half of their income on rent.
MARQUES, HOST: During the pandemic, legislation was passed to limit evictions. But those rules expired in January. The Good Cause Eviction Bill seeks to make many of those protections permanent. Shantel Destra reports on the bill’s potential impact on the city’s affordable housing crisis.
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SHANTEL DESTRA: Last week, housing advocates rallied outside of Governor Kathy Hochul’s Manhattan office, calling on the Governor to support the Good Cause Eviction bill.
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AMBI: we are here today, as an upstate downstate coalition across the state of New York urging the Governor, Kathy Hochul, to pass Good Cause Eviction Legislation now. Now. Now. Now. Now.
DESTRA: If passed, landlords would be forbidden from evicting tenants without reason and tenants would have the right to automatic lease renewals. It would also cap rent increases at 3% or 150% of the Consumer Price Index.
Fannie Lou Diane is a housing advocate working with local grassroots tenant organizations. She says this work was inspired by her own housing struggles, that began when she moved out of her family’s place and into her first apartment.
DIANE: You know, I thought I was moving on up like the Jeffersons. But what I didn't know was that it would be a tough lesson I would learn and I ended up getting a slum landlord who refused to remediate toxic mold and several pest infestations.
DESTRA: Diane says these conditions caused health issues including sinus infections, fibroids, and gynecological issues. When she withheld rent pending repairs, the landlord evicted her. Dianne spent the next three years living back home with her family. She says if Good Cause Eviction had been in effect, she might have been able to stay in her apartment and hold her landlord accountable.
DIANE: It would give tenants the ability to contest substandard living conditions like I was doing without the retaliation behind that.
DESTRA: This week Diane is moving into a new apartment. But she says the past few years of homelessness have taken a toll on her mental health. She often wonders how her life might have been if she hadn’t been evicted.
DIANE: Good Cause Eviction is not just something just to save tenants from their landlords, it's something that saves lives.
DESTRA: Real estate and landlord groups strongly oppose the bill, saying it unfairly burdens landlords, and won’t solve the problems in the housing market.
Lincoln Eccles owns and manages a fourteen-unit apartment building in Brooklyn. Eccles is renovating several of the units, and last week, he met with a contractor to go over details.
As they walked through an apartment, the contractor suggested replacing some stained floor tiles in the kitchen, Eccles is hoping to salvage them.
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DESTRA: Eccles family has owned and managed this building since the 60s. He says the majority of the units are rent-stabilized, but he relies on the income of the three free-market apartments to cover much of his overhead.
ECCLES: If I don't have the revenue from those, those units, the cash flow from the rent-stabilized units would not cover my month-to-month operating costs. So the building or financially I would collapse. It's it's a recipe for destruction.
DESTRA: Eccles says hefty hot water, insurance, and property tax expenses of his building are all covered by the free market apartments… And the rental increases outlined in Good Cause are not enough.
ECCLES: 3% is not going to cover it, it's just an arbitrary number that sounds low enough to somebody in their head, but it doesn't reflect the economic situation of housing.
DESTRA: And in the long run, he says, Good Cause won’t help tenants either.
ECCLES: It will exacerbate the problem,/, because you either make it unaffordable for owners, or you make it so that owners are fed up and exit the market.
DESTRA: But many housing policy experts believe that in the short term, Good Cause will increase tenant protections for renters.
STEIN: Good causes important in the in the short term for putting limits on how much rents can go up year to year and giving people stability in their homes. But in the long run, it's important for increasing people's confidence and ability to join in political action on behalf of renters.
DESTRA: Samuel Stein is a housing policy analyst at the Community Service Society. He says it’s going to take more than one bill to address the affordable housing crisis in New York City.
STEIN: We should always be skeptical of any single solution to the whole to the housing and homelessness crisis, any any silver bullets. And so Good Cause won't fix everything - Good Cause doesn't lower rents good cause doesn't raise incomes, if there are fundamental aspects of the housing question that good cause simply doesn't touch.
DESTRA: Eric Kober is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and has a background in housing, economic, and infrastructure city planning. He agrees Good Cause fails to solve the affordable housing crisis. At its core, he says, its a problem of insufficient supply.
KOBER: We have rapidly rising rents, because there aren't enough housing units being built. And to use to try to thwart that through rent regulation without dealing with the supply issues, is just going to make the situation much worse.
DESTRA: As it stands, it’s unlikely The Good Cause Eviction bill will get passed before the end of this legislation session in June. But additional lawmakers have recently come out in support of bill, and they plan to re-introduce the Good Cause Eviction bill in next year’s session.
Shantel Destra. Columbia Radio News.